Pandemic is defined as an adjective (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world, also, it is described as a noun, outbreak of a particular disease. This word has been frequently used in the last few months a result of the COVID 19 situation across the world. But in the middle of the COVID19 pandemic, another more deadly outbreak has been ongoing and have resurfaced, which is Sexual Abuse, specifically, rape.
Rape is an unlawful sexual activity involving sexual intercourse done forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will. It is estimated that approximately 35% of women worldwide have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. The majority of countries that have data available on rape, report that less than 40% of women who experience sexual violence seek help, while Less than 10% seek help from law enforcement because of stigma and shame.
In the last few days, we have seen hashtags calling for justice on the lives of rape and sexual assault victims and we wonder why, how and where these occurrences took place without witnesses to the stories we hear.
It is sad to say that amidst the global lockdown situation, some vicious souls still prowl about searching for vulnerable or not persons to devour. #JusticeforUwa #JusticeforTina #JusticeforJennifer and the list goes on and on. We can be sure that many other cases were buried on the grounds of shame and cultural values and it almost appears as though the women are forever making up stories of these events as some say, but it takes one who has been battered to know what it’s like to walk in those shoes.
It is no longer news that Africa have the highest prevalence rate of child sexual abuse around 34.4% and these numbers are likely to go up if disciplinary actions are not taken seriously. South Africa have the highest rate of rape in the world of 132.4 incidents per 100,000 people.
According to a survey conducted by the South African Medical Research Council, approximately one in four men surveyed admitted to committing rape, this is outrageous and detrimental to the society. Although the Parliament of South Africa enacted the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act in 2007 attempting to amend and strengthen all laws dealing with sexual violence, the rates of reported rape, sexual abuse of children and domestic violence have continued to rise.
Back to Nigeria, there have been many instances where rape occurs, we have seen where girls have been sent to relatives due to her immediate family not being able to cater for her needs, and they are taken advantage of.
House helps have been raped by fathers of the household, bosses have raped subordinates, criminals have not only attached homes but raped female members of the family, fathers have even raped their children and recently, we just experienced where a young girl was raped by some boys in the church, a place of worship, very pathetic.
The side effect or aftermaths of rape is destroying the womenfolk and girl child considering the studies that have shown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and suicidal thoughts, sense of vulnerability, shock, numbness, anger and blame to mention a few are what victims go through. Marriages have even been destroyed due to the effect of rape experienced by the wife, that was carried into adulthood.
What could be worse than being hurt by those who should feel empathy towards you. Some blame this callosity on the pattern of raising children differently in homes, though, this may not hold in all cases, but it might not be far from the truth.
In all of this, we need to be careful not to build or allow a culture that condones this “pandemic” and to build a generation of women and girlchild that can live safely and aspire to what they want to become in life, because our culture tends to be silent and not punish offenders adequately.
But we cannot entirely counter the belief of wrong upbringing being the cause of rise in rape cases, and we have seen studies showing that upbringing shapes the thought pattern of many individuals. In its entirety, we hope for a better society that will stand up and support assaulted women, and encouraging women not to keep quiet when they are victims of this terrible act.
Parenting and good family life play a major role in the upbringing of the male child, and the notion of men being entitled to bodies of women should continually be frowned at, especially in breaking the stereotype portrayed by cultures across Africa.
Hence, the urgent need to support the family and particularly the womenfolk in the upliftment of family values such as; empathy, care, love towards the total development of the family, which breeds men and women of good character for a better society cannot be overemphasized.
This we do in WODDI, a non-profit, headoffice in Abuja, Nigeria, where we offer counselling to women experiencing any form of violence or have been victims of sexual assault. We provide these supports through training, seminars, counselling and empowerment, in addition to making available shelter for the family unit, through our ‘SHE NEED A ROOF PROJECT’ (SNARP).
Asides enacting laws and instituting all forms of punitive measures to check this callous act, there needs to be planned approach in addressing the foundation of the problem which stems from poor family values indoctrination or the total absence of moral standards in the family system.
Like all ‘PANDEMICS’ can be contained and eliminated, through the conscious effort of everyone, teaching the right values and ensuring the family unit takes the lead.
The vicious circle of poor family orientation and foundation building can be rejuvenated, to produce decent individuals that NUTURES, Show EMPATHY, CARES, and gives HOPE to the womenfolk and girlchild, making the society a better place for all.
This we stand for at WODDI.
Neoma Nkechi Rochas Okorocha PHD,
FOUNDER/CEO WODDI- 08072025170 www.woddi.org